Players: 1 - 4
Game Time: 60 - 90 minutes
Cosmoctopus from Paper Fort Games is an engine-building, tentacle-gathering game by Henry Audubon, the designer of Parks. In this board game, you take on the role of a cultist using harnessing powerful relics and ancient scriptures to summon the mighty galactic cephalopod Cosmoctopus! Will you be victorious as the most worthy and dedicated follower of the great inky one, summoning the Ancient One from his mighty realm?
During the game, players move Cosmoctopus through the Inky Realm, a configuration of tiles, gathering resources (coins, ink, stars and whispers) and obtaining cards that represent relics, scripture, hallucinations and constellations. The winner is the first player to gain eight tentacles through playing cards purchased using the resources earned, combining their effects.
The game setup starts by randomly choosing one of the four special Inky Realm tiles and adding it to the eight basic tiles. The nine tiles are then shuffled and arranged in a configuration at the centre of the gaming table. For the first game, it is recommended to do a simple 3 x 3 grid, but the rulebook has other recommended layouts too, and you can also get creative to design your own.
Once you've laid out the Inky Realm, place Cosmoctopus' head on the three-star resource tile. Then, place the tentacles and four Forbidden Knowledge tiles, multiplier tokens, First Contact cards and resource tokens within easy reach of all players. Shuffle the Devotee cards and place them face-down to form a deck, then reveal three cards to create the trade row. Give each player a summoning portal tile, these are used for adding gained tentacles.
The image below shows an example final game state of a two-player game, which used the 3 x 3 grid set up.
Each player starts the game by drawing five cards from the Devotee deck and taking two of each resource. Determine a first player (maybe the last person to see an octopus!) and give any remaining players the following generic discount token: 2nd = 1, 3rd = 2 , 4th =3 ). These tokens may be discarded at any time to gain a one-off discount against a generic card cost.
Your turn is made up of the following steps:
Move Cosmoctopus (mandatory)
Play a card (optional)
Discard down to 8 (hands in your card, and for each resource type).
Turn the mighty Cosmoctopus to face the next player so that he glares upon them, waiting for them to start their turn (less embarrassing than them having to don the Cone of Shame from Exploding Kittens if they aren't paying attention... ).
Cosmoctopus can be moved to any adjacent tile orthogonally (not diagonally), and you can pay tribute to move additional spaces, one resource must be spent per additional movement (unless you have the First Contact benefit that lets you move an additional space for free). You gain the bonus shown on the tile that Cosmoctopus lands on (for the basic realm tiles this will either be three of a resource or one of a resource and a card). You do not gain resources from tiles that you move through. Spending for additional movement may sound expensive and inefficient but trust me there will be times its definitely worth it!
On most turns, players will play a single Devotee card, but some cards will have effects which allow you to play other cards. To play a card, you must pay the cost on the top left of the card (the grey diamonds can be any resource).
There are the below card types:
Scriptures - these black cards are ancient scriptures that when played remain activate for the duration of the game and reduce costs of playing other cards
Relics - gold cards that are like upgrades providing additional resources when claiming resources or may bend the rules in some ways
Hallucinations - red cards that provide powerful one-time effects (and sometimes even tentacles)
Constellations - green cards that you fill in with resources to gain a tentacle once the constellation is complete.
There are also additional elements to gameplay which can help you to win. On your turn, you may spend 13 of any one resource to gain Forbidden Knowledge, which grants you TWO tentacles. This can be tricky to achieve as you can only hold maximum of eight resources at the end of a turn. There is only one Forbidden Knowledge of each type, and it is first come first served. So, you better get there before your competitors!
Upon gaining your first tentacle, you select one of the four first contact cards, which give a special benefit when played. My favourite is the one which grants one additional free movement per turn.
The game ends immediately when a player gains their eighth tentacle. The winner may then take Cosmoctopus’ head and place it in the centre of their summoning circle, completing their portal to the Inky Realm! They have summoned their cephalopodic overlord!
There are also the options of solo and cooperative play using the AI Private Investigator (PI) character. To win, every player must gain 8 tentacles before the PI does and you can vary the level of difficulty in terms of how many resources he starts with.
I'll not go into detail on how this mode works. However, a basic overview is that he has a deck of, you've guessed it, eight behaviour cards that give him effects and two realm cards he investigates. If you move Cosmoctopus onto an 'investigated' tile, the PI gains a resource matching the investigated type. On each of his turns, he gains a resource matching the type of each individual card in the card row. At the end of this turn, if he has 13 or more of any single resource, and it is available, he gains the corresponding Forbidden Knowledge (and thus two tentacles). If he has eight or more of any single resource, he gains a tentacle. The behaviour card is changed at the end of his turn if he gained any tentacles. If he gains eight tentacles before any player, he wins. So, it's all about managing the trade row and your movements.
Overall, the gameplay is easy to learn after a quick read of the rulebook. However, there are many layers of difficulty; from a simple move each turn and playing a singular card, to chaining things like the best of them in clever ways. Your experience may differ between playthroughs, with varying degrees of player satisfaction. In some of my playthroughs, I barely got an engine built and was very unworthy at zero tentacles, whilst George E Ohh stormed it. This did feel a little frustrating but spurred me on for rematches. There was one particularly satisfying playthrough where I snuck in a win with the ink Forbidden Knowledge having quietly amassed ink whilst George was greedily planning a nine tentacle turn... Whilst runaway leader syndrome is less likely in higher player counts, the game is great at all player counts (including solo). I found the game quite addictive and can't wait to play again!
Disclaimer: in terms of the physical version, we were sent a prototype copy. Therefore, I cannot fully comment on the production value as things may change in the final version. However, the prototype was really good quality and I am confident this will translate to the Kickstarter final version. I will absolutely be backing it as soon as it goes live!
From an accessibility perspective, I would have perhaps preferred the tokens to be a little bigger so as not to be fiddly. It might also have been nice if they were wooden.
I absolutely adore the artwork of the game, particularly the box art because ... well.... just look at him! SOOOO CUTE! George Doutsiopoulos has done a stellar job. The plush add-on you can get via the Kickstarter is also shiny (not quite literally). I can't quite decide what I'm more excited about, the plushie or the game....
I also love the little Cosmoctopus head and tentacles with little sucker details on them. Whilst as an environmentally conscious person, I obviously don't like the use of plastic, a wooden alternative would likely really drive the price up. If you just had cardboard cut-outs it wouldn't be as appealing. The 3D prints provided with the prototype really do set the tone of the game. Paper Fort Games could have perhaps sent us makeshift cut-outs given it is only a prototype copy, but instead took the effort to give us the 3D models courtesy of their in-house 3D printer.
The game most certainly commands excellent table presence; anyone who saw you playing it at your Local Friendly Board Game Cafe would certainly be enticed to find out what the game is.
So, let's break it down for you in our key areas:
Plenty of replayability as you can vary the difficulty with different Inky Realm layouts, and there are even options to vary the length for a shorter game.
Difficult to fully comment on as we were given a prototype version, but I am confident the final version will be of great quality in terms of individual components etcetera.
Love the theme. They've done a space octopus justice and it feels quite Lovecraftian.
Simple to learn and play, but plenty of opportunity to be tactical and (especially if you are George E Ohh) find devious combinations.
Easy to follow and largely well-written rulebook. Players will quickly grasp how to play.
A far as I'm aware the game is pretty unique, albeit nothing truly ground-breaking as an engine builder game.
The Kickstarter is reasonably priced for this size of game.
I do absolutely love this game. Highly addictive and great fun to play, finding the best way to build your engine to beat your opponent. It is certainly one that will see regular play in my household, has beautifully appealing artwork and commands a lot of table presence. Just short of a six because, as with most engine builders, you do sometimes have the problem of runaway leader, particularly in 2-player. I can't wait for the hubby and I to back it on Kickstarter so that I can get one of the super cute Cosmoctoplushes too!
The Word-nerd Sueyzanne
I'm absolutely loving this game; in fact, I think this has become my new favourite engine builder, from the amazing artwork and the cute additions of tentacles and of course the Inky One himself, Cosmoctopus. The playing pieces are just awesome... can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this game! The paints will come out and I will for sure be painting all the parts for sure! I'm NOT worthy... all hail Cosmoctopus! Mr Chris
Cosmoctopus goes live on Kickstarter on October 25th, 2022. In the meantime, sign up here to be notified on launch:
Also why not check out our podcast with Chris from Paper Fort Games where we talk about Cosmoctopus: